Love, Work, and Christmas

Work is love made visible.
Kahlil Gibran
I am tired.

I imagine there isn't a mother right now, on the 29th of December, who isn't.  Especially mothers of many children, especially mothers of little ones, and especially mothers of teenagers who stay up late.

This is the 21rst Christmas Jeff and I have celebrated together, and as we've added more and more children, I have gotten the hang of the season-I know what I will commit to and what I will say "no thank you" to. I have a system of keeping track of gifts, I can rival Mr. Claus (I should I say Mrs. Claus, we all know a woman is behind that well-oiled machine!) with my list twice-checked. I have whittled our traditions to the most beloved and satisfying.  I know what Mass time is the best fit for us, and I have my go-to teacher's gifts.  I love our messy tree, I remember the year long ago when I shed the yoke of magazine perfection, and realized, with relief, that in the end, the gift of many little hands helping, produced a 'rare and beautiful treasure' that makes that magazine perfection look cold and shallow.

So what was it with this Christmas I ask myself?  Why did I feel so behind this December, and so tired and so overwhelmed, doubtful of our traditions, a little resentful that most of the work falls to me, and well, honestly, a little crabby?  Was it wrong to give children who have so much, more, especially with all the work involved in doing so?  That guilt was feeding my resentment, confusing the meaning of Christmas in my already tired, and exhausted head. In turn I struggled with guilt for feeling this way-I told myself I have so much, I am so lucky, I will never get this year back, what of the dear family who lost their son in a car accident just weeks ago, who am I to be anything but joyful, all my children are here and alive and good (not perfect, but good!), I have a hard-working husband who will do anything for us, and SNAP OUT OF IT for God's sake alive, what is wrong with you?  But still...why must the baby (not a baby, she is two) decide to not take naps now?  Why must everyone takes turns getting sick this month?  Why must my husband's work be more time consuming at the end of the year right when I need help more than ever?   Around and around my thoughts churned and my mood reflected those thoughts.

And then, a few days before the big day, I felt my heart changing. It was something I heard-I can't even remember where-maybe it was the Catholic radio station I listen to during my quick errands, or the homily at one of the Advent masses, or maybe it was something I read.  It was a message of the greatest gift given ever- freely, with no heavy sighing, with no resentment or doubting, with no tallying, with no questions asked, with nothing, nothing, in return.

Here is my Son.  For you.

It was my job to buy and wrap some presents, put together some celebratory dinners and bake cookies, decorate a tree, hang some lights, and set up a nativity scene in celebration of that greatest gift.  It was minuscule in comparison, the work I was doing, to celebrate a gift I could never ever imagine giving.  At home here, I was reminded that as mother I have the awesome opportunity to imitate the gift at Christmas for my family-to give as selflessly, joyfully, peacefully, tirelessly, completely as I can.      

It wasn't any new information, and I imagine when I am in the thick of December I will need the reminder every year for the rest of my life.

I am doing God's work, and it's big.

When I take that into account I am gentler with my expectations of myself and I know that come December, tired is good.

Work is love made visible.

Christmas is work for us mothers, some years more than other but in working we experience the authenticity of the meaning of love.


Contemplation and Books

I received a couple dozen really sweet notes this last week in my email inbox asking after our family and wondering where I disappeared to and if we were ok.  

We are alive and well! 

There is no extraordinary reason why I've not blogged but I did want to back away for a little and take some time for quiet contemplation.

That sounds dramatic, I don't intend it to be, I promise!

While our addition was being completed I stepped away from blogging except sporadically because I had to with all that was going on here.  (I didn't think it was going to be fun, but heck, I will honestly tell you that if I could foresee the stress involved (mostly because of bad contractors) I'd have never done it.  That's not to say I don't love it and the space isn't beautifully useful for our family, just to say...it was maddening.  I'm going to stop myself there, because I've come to peace with it all, and don't want to dredge up my anger again.

After it was all said and done, I needed to regain my equilibrium, and center my mind, and FOCUS on my family.  I felt like I had lost months with my children, a beautiful summer, because of this project and the energy it required of me.  I wrote this a few years ago-it was time for a major "regroup" here-we were all craving it, me especially.

But during that stepping-away time, I also began to really have some strong feelings about blogging our family journal-I have written about this before so I won't bore, but as my children have grown, as I've seen the effects of social media, as the internet has changed (and maybe it hasn't but it seems so to me from when I first began) I wanted to listen to these unsettling feelings I kept pushing away over the last year or so.  Since I am an overthinker by nature, I had a high time of overthinking-going back and forth, waiting for a sign or a new direction.

In the end I decided to take it slow and play it safe.  I tried a few different things (concerning ads and comments, wondering if that would suffice) but I still had those nagging feelings.  I decided, in the end, it is best for me to make our family journal a private keepsake for Jeff and I and my children, and I transferred those personal posts to a private blog.  It feels really right to me.

But I also love THIS place, whatever it might become, if it becomes anything at all other than what it is.  I love writing, when I can find the time-without pressure.  I love putting my thoughts down on "paper" -somehow that is all the reminder I need of the way I desire to parent in a culture that is constantly telling me I must do, be, want more.  I've heard from so many lovely readers who have felt the same as me-sometimes it's nice to hear we have companionship when we feel like we are swimming against the grain.  

But...Do I have the mental energy and the time for it now?  I don't know.  Can I write and maintain that balance of authenticity and privacy?  I don't know.  Have I said everything I want to say and will just constantly repeat myself?  I don't know.  I can get really self-conscious about it if I let myself.  I don't have all the answers, really in the grand scheme, even with 20 years under my belt-I'm a "new parent"-what do I know? And writing is also a habit for me-once I get out of the habit, it's difficult for me to step back in.  

So that is where I am at...just thinking on things when I have the time, and trying hard to be present in real life because that is always my priority, especially at this time of year that requires more of us moms.


...I've also been reading...like a fiend during nap time, when I used to blog, and it puts me to sleep at night.  I have so many books to share, but I am over the moon in love with Jane Kirkpatrick's writing and I can't get enough.

For the past years I've been "ordering" books through the library, but it was never really working for me-they'd all come in at once, or I'd forget to pick them up and they'd be sent back.  I decided I was going to spend the $4 most of the books I want cost when ordered used, and I now have a shelf of excellence waiting for me-no pressure, deadlines, disappointment.

Have you ever read Jane Kirkpatrick?  The most lovely well written historical fiction, all pioneer times, all about strong, strong women.  Some of the books are part of a series-this one above is three books in one, which accounts for its hefty nature, and my sore, but muscular wrists. :)  I am trying to pace myself, because I know once I'm finished with my Jane Kirkpatrick binge, it's going to feel like I am saying goodbye to a dear treasured friend.  She, alas, can't write faster than I'm soaking up her gift of storytelling.


Seasons of Life

We each have our own seasons-a time to be a student, time to be a new bride, a time to be a mother, a time to have a career and/or a time to share the accumulation of our life's knowledge with others. 

 With these seasons, we are also given choices to make.  We can fully embrace each season for what it offers us, enjoying each moment so that when the season passes we have no regrets.  Or we can try to overlap each season, trying to appreciate all these joys at once, only to find we can't adequately keep up with any of them, and greatly increasing our stress in the process.

If you are in the seasons that calls you to motherhood, focus on that season.  Embrace all that your child is, and all that God is calling you to be as a mother. 

By surrendering to God and your motherhood, you will call into play all the gifts, intelligence, and creativity with which God has blessed you.  By savoring this season, you will find peace, a joy and a level of self-discovery that simply cannot be found in the workaday world.

-Lisa Popcak-


A Beautiful Tribute

A reader, knowing I love the inspiration of a "life well-lived", sent me this beautiful tribute she read at her beloved father's funeral.  So inspiring and touching and a reminder that life is not all about the awards and accomplishments and accolades, but about the way we make people feel.  Thank you, Mary Lynn!

I wanted to share some things about my dad with you.  Some you may know, some you may not.  To the world, he was a 73 year old husband and father, grandpa, uncle and brother.  He would’ve turned 74 on Monday.  He was born in Springfield, Illinois (home of Abraham Lincoln) and was the oldest of 4 children.  He joined the Navy in his younger years and was a hospital coreman.  He then went back to school and after earning his MBA he took a job at GE in Finance which brought him to Cincinnati.  It was from GE that he retired after over 32 years.  Those are the basic details, what you could read on paper.

What I’d like to share now are things you may or may not have known about him, but what certainly made him the person we all loved.  He loved oysters on the half shell and seafood and crème brulee. He loved escargot from the Maisonette but also the “senior rootie tootie from IHOP.”  He loved music.  He’d sit in the living room with his green ear phones and listen to everything from Bob Dylan to Patsy Cline from Manheim Steamroller to the 1812 Overture.  He loved good music. 

He loved his Irish Setters – he and my mom both.  My mom often said he would be able to determine the length of their marriage by how many Irish Setters they had.  And they had a lot.
He loved taking pictures. He was into photography before it became the hip thing to do. He was always behind the camera and all our albums at home are because dad took his camera with him everywhere and always took the time to walk around to take pictures of his friends or family laughing or talking, rarely just posing for a picture. From slides to reel to reel, film and flashbulbs to his digital camera and trusty Nikon around his neck.

He was the ultimate handyman. He spent countless hours at his tool bench, in the yard, and always tinkering with things. He built the kids 3 different treehouses (complete with windows and painted cool colors), a sandbox with seats, stilts to walk up and down the driveway on, Dave’s pinewood Derby cars, the bookshelves in the living room, toy shelves in the basement and just countless other creations.  If something needed to be fixed, he did it right away.  He made a big wooden twinkling star for Christmas and put it on the roof every December– his favorite part was having the grandkids over and turning it on for them at night to hear their little “oooohs and aaaaahs.”  What a good man.

He loved grilling and cooking – steaks, hot dogs, chicken, shish-ka-bob, veggies – he believed in hot meals for the kids before they went to school – making pancakes and eggs and bacon or hot cereal with a little brown sugar on top, making breakfast for his kids at 6:30 in the morning before he went to work.

He would never let his or my mom’s gas tank go below ½ full (and most times when it was a quarter down he’d run up to “top it off.”  When we got in the car on Monday, mom asked if the car needed gas and dad must’ve filled it on Sunday – it was full to the top.  He enjoyed camping and took so many trips to state parks and campgrounds.  He’d meet his family from Springfield, Illinois ½ way and camp with everyone.  We especially loved Camp Kick-a-Poo State Park –(supposedly because it was the ½ way meeting point from Springfield but mostly because we loved saying that name). He loved camping with David and the Boy Scouts.  Those trips were always very special to him.
He had a love of grammar and when I was at work, I’d often call home to ask dad a grammar question or how best to write something.  His favorite joke “you never use a preposition to end a sentence with…”  Oh, Dad.

If you needed something done, he did it right away. Friends would stop over and while they were busy, he’d go out and turn their cars around, wipe off their windshield and put Rainex on it.  Just because that’s the kind of person he was.  He was the ultimate gentleman.   He would ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS hold doors for my mom, for all of us.  He was so thoughtful.  Always asking my mom what she needed or arranging her things just because he knew she’d like it that way.  He was SO KIND.  Today is our mom’s 70th birthday.  He had told her he bought her a birthday present (and did she want to know what it was) but that he hid it in the garage, but hid it so well he couldn’t find it.  We did end up finding it – he bought her Romance – her favorite perfume.  He was so thoughtful.

He taught me and my brother David so many good lessons. He was such a good dad.  He was always protective of us and one example  - every year he’d paint a red line at the end of the driveway that we couldn’t ride our tricycles or bikes across (of course we’d always toe the line). But that red line and him wanting us to be safe is just ingrained in our minds.  He loved us so much – he was so proud.  He wanted us to be happy and healthy and was so very happy to see us with such good partners and children. 

He was so loyal to our mom. So loyal and faithful, loving and totally devoted to our mom.  He doted on her and went everywhere with her (except when she felt like shopping by herself!!!).  He was patient and when mom went to do physical therapy or water aerobics, he’d bring his Kindle and just read while waiting in the pool area, ready to help my mom when she was done.

Speaking of reading, he loved books. He was a voracious reader and while he had a nice collection of books, he learned to love the Kindle and downloaded and read all the time.  He loved history and WWI and WWII and the Civil War.  He LOVED the book To Kill A Mockingbird and would stop us every once in a while to read one of the quotes from the book – what he called gems.  And he had certain books – Shackleton or the Frontiersman or John Adams that he probably read and reread 6 or 7 times.

He loved to travel.  Every summer he took the family on a trip – most times to the beach in Destin or Hilton Head or North Myrtle Beach.  They went to Washington DC and Gettysburg and so many other places.  He traveled a lot for work in his early days – to Paris over 18 times and to Germany and Amsterdam.  But the travel he really enjoyed was with Mary Lou.  They took countless cruises – to the Caribbean to Alaska many times and enjoyed their recent trip to Europe. 

He went to mass most mornings at Glenmary and usually with mom (unless she was babysitting!)  He felt a real connection with that small, intimate chapel and when we went to mass on Tuesday, the priests and people hugged us and Father Charlie even had part of his homily about dad.  He and my mom regularly volunteered at the Drop Inn Center and made and served food.  He did this quietly but often and did it without hesitation.

He loved his family in Sprinfield, Illinois.  He would pack up the station wagon and for almost every holiday they’d make the trek to Springfield to spend time with everyone.  He went back for Alan’s surprise 60th birthday party, he made trips to visit his mom – sometimes by himself when he needed to help out or just be there for her in her later years.  He loved his nieces and nephews. What great memories the cousins had playing together, camping together and spending summer vacations together.  Family was so important and those memories they have, he helped create.

He was PROUD without reserve.  He’d talk about his grandchildren – “that little Arleigh is just so attentive – look at how she notices everything….Lily, listen to hear read – and her vocabulary!!!, she’s amazing…Griffin is such a good boy and just so smart.”  He loved his little grandchildren and always had a treat stashed in a little bag to give them. They knew they could count on grandpa to sneak them a snack.  He’d be so patient and enjoyed watching a cartoon with them.  We’d walk by and there’d be Lily and Griffin sitting with grandpa watching Care Bears or My Little Pony – and he just enjoyed it.  Most recently mom and dad went on a European cruise – from Istanbul to Athens, Paris to Venice. At dinner with a table full of strangers he said, “you know my daughter-in-law Rachel won the Flying Pig Marathon!”  I’m sure they had no clue, but it didn’t matter – he’d talk about his kids or his family any chance he had.  He loved Rachel and loved Greg like his own.  He was proud of them and happy to be in their company. 

There are no words to describe how much he was loved and how much he will be missed.  It hasn’t sunk in, it doesn’t seem real, but we trust in God’s plan.  We know it’s not goodbye, but that we will see him again one day. 

Every morning before their walk at Winton Woods, mom and dad would say this to each other.  Dad would say “This is the Day the Lord has made” and mom would say “let us rejoice and be glad.”  And dad would end with “Alleluia.” 



I picked up my old worn out copy of Mitten Strings for God yesterday-I know I've said it before several times, but there is no other book I have loved more as a mother than this one.  Just reading this book calms my soul and reminds me of the kind of home I want to create and the kind of mother I want to be.  There is SO much wisdom in this book.

"I used to feel guilty about idle moments.  Time spent splayed out in the lawn chair, staring at the sky, was time "wasted".  A walk in the woods with a friend and her dog, meant that I wouldn't get my aerobic workout for the day.  When Henry, at three, wanted to hear the same story every day for a month, and have the same conversation about it every time, I could not help thinking about the stack of unread library books that was gathering dust in the meantime.  But I have come to believe that all of these activities are essential.  They are what is meant by "nurturing".  As the writer Julia Cameron reminds us, "So much of what we need, so much of what we want, is to be savored, cherished, cared for and cared about.  So much of what is missing is tenderness."  Our children do not need any more possessions to be happy; they need only to feel sure that they possess our hearts, our attention, our acceptance of who they are." -Katrina Kenison


Sharlee's Story

Have you ever had a tough decision to make? Have you ever second guessed your instincts? Have you prayed for answers, but then felt too afraid to trust them?

My decision to quit my job after JaiseAnn was born was not easy and happened a bit unexpectedly.

While there are a myriad of reasons as to why some of you my not relate to my decision to stay home with my daughter, I hope you can relate to my feelings in the process of making a tough decision. My worries, anxieties, fears, prayers, etc. 

Before JaiseAnn was born, we discussed the option of me staying home. We didn't feel it was possible, so we planned and hoped that I would be able to work part time. Honestly, I felt that was the "best of both worlds." I wanted to get up and dressed every morning, spend time doing something that brought in a steady income for my family and that I had worked hard to be able to do, and then come home and be a mom. I told Zach that I thought it would be best if I always worked part-time even if we could afford for me not to. 

And then she came. And my world changed in an instant. I belonged to her and she belonged to me. We were partners entering a brand new world together. I was readmitted to the hospital only a few days after she was born and it was a really scary time for me. She needed me so much during that time. I could not sleep because she wouldn't be without me. She wouldn't let anyone else hold her. I felt like she saved me in a time when I was so scared and unsure. She knew I needed her and she made sure I knew how much she needed me. 

There were a lot of things that lead up to me finally saying to Zach, "I can't go back to work. I just can't. It will rip me apart."

There were so many reasons not to quit, finances being at the top. Everyone kept telling me, you have to make sacrifices to stay home." "If you want it badly enough you can do it." Well, I also have to make student loan payments. I was worried about my career. I was enrolled in graduate school and had a career path in mind--do I just leave that behind? I worried about my physical appearance. Would I take care of myself? Would I be able to go to the gym? 

But I still didn't want to leave my little girl. So I prayed for guidance. I prayed for help. I prayed...and prayed...and prayed. I don't think I stopped praying for weeks.

Little by little ideas or thoughts just came to our minds. Zach thought he should look into the remaining balance of one of his student loans. We had enough to cover that balance in the bank. It would deplete a good chunk our savings, but it would save our monthly budget. We paid it off. 

"Have Zach put you on his benefits." was a thought that came to me one day. That way I would be free to choose a job that was more flexible, part-time, or work from home. I could even run a daycare. If Zach put us on his benefits, it would open a lot of doors for us. So he did. And I waited for that first paycheck while holding my breath. I was so worried it would be too small. 

The check came and it was enough. Zach had worked overtime so we didn't really even notice the change. "I'll keep working extra." He promised. 

After that, I started searching for online work and plotting and planning a daycare. The ideas were coming like crazy. I wrote cover letters like I was a force to be reckoned with. I wanted this so bad and I was definitely being assisted in my efforts. I could feel it as I jotted down activities for a day care. I could feel it as I wrote out resumes. I could feel it in my heart. 

It came time to make a choice. With very little promise of an income for me, but all of these options out in the open, we decided to pray about it me quitting my job. When we decided that I would go to work the next day and resign, I felt a wave of peace wash over me. It was the right choice. 

 After resigning, I spent days at home worrying about the things that had already been tucked away safely, not to be worried about again. I am the queen of bringing those things back, and so I did. Every walk we took. Every time I nursed JaiseAnn. I started second guessing and hoping for a more sure situation. 

Then my boss called. She offered me the job of all jobs. It was the job I had been going back to school for. Only it was part-time and mirrored Zach's schedule. JaiseAnn would never have to go to daycare. She would never be without one of her parents. I would get to continue working in a job that I loved, but still be home more than half time with my baby. It was the best of both worlds

Except after that phone call, I sat down with my daughter and my heart felt heavy. I suppose I should have known right then and there, but I fought it. I wanted that job. I loved that I had been offered that job. I entertained the idea of taking it for several days. Zach felt that we had already received our answer, and promised he would work an extra shift after talking it over with his boss, but he also said he'd support me no matter what. 

We went back and forth on it, because I wasn't sold.  Zach told me to write out a pros and cons list to see how it added up. There were so many "pros" to taking the job. A steady income, continuing my career, having an income through next summer, and time for JaiseAnn to play with her dad. As I moved to the "cons" section I wrote, "Have to leave JaiseAnn." I felt like Ross on the episode of Friends where he tries to chose between Rachel and Julie. His only con for Julie is that she's not Rachel. The only downside to this job opportunity was that I would have to leave my little girl. Sure it was only a few days, and most people would jump at that chance, but the thought still left my heart heavy.

Our Heavenly Father is so incredibly patient with us, I know this because I still fought it. I wanted a deliberate answer right then and there.

The day I was supposed to call my boss, I was still teetering back and forth. Every time I decided out loud, I decided I wasn't taking the job, but in my head I still sort of wanted to and it was a struggle for me. Zach and I fought that day. We hadn't fought, really fought, in a long time. And this fight was a big one. One of our biggest. I spent that day angry and in tears. I was angry with my husband, but I was more angry with the situation. "If this job offer hadn't come up.." I began thinking and before I could even finish my thought, there was my answer. 
In our situation, this job wasn't a blessing. The offer had created contention in our home and stress that had not been there before. I wasn't supposed to take the job. So I called my boss and turned down the "offer of a lifetime."

"I need frozen yogurt!" I declared, and Zach, JaiseAnn, and I went and ate our yogurt while basking in the sunlight. We talked about how next summer, JaiseAnn could partake in my favorite treat with us and for the millionth time, talked about how wonderful our little girl is.

We tiptoed around each other, treading lightly, throughout the rest of the day.  That night, as I nursed JaiseAnn to sleep while rocking her just before we went to sleep, I felt a real wave of peace wash over me. I whispered to Zach, "I made the right choice."

Because here's the thing: I could list reasons to keep working or not all day long. I could hear valid arguments about it. I could make a million pros and cons lists with very good points for both sides. None of the options I have had at my disposal have been inherently bad. Which is why prayer seemed to be the only solution. Only He knows where I belong right now and why. 

Personally, I'm so grateful for the opportunity to leave my work behind and embrace this new job. For motherhood is truly the job of all jobs. I want to get to know the new person I've become.. I'm grateful that for now my answer is to be home with my little girl. There will always be time for work, but I won't get this time back. When she's grown, she's grown. I only get one chance to do this job and I want to (get to!) put my all into it right now.

Our finances aren't completely outlined on paper. I'm not sure what it will look like or how long it will last (honestly, I hope it lasts forever) but we've gotten our answer (more than once) and we're taking a leap of faith in following it.

Sharlee blogs here.


Presence and Joy

 Slow down and take care of the little ones and big ones with presence and joy. 
That is what they will remember! 
That is what they need.
(a quote from my mom)



I don't know why it's so hard for me to remember this, but a walk, no matter how short or long, clears my head more than anything else can.  By "clears my head" I mean washes away worries, doldrums, ruts, crabbies, just about everything.  No matter what the weather, it's always good to get out and breathe some fresh air, I think our bodies and minds need nature.  Now I sound like my mom! (Thanks mom for the best advice always!)

Yesterday I noticed how beautiful some of my favorite houses and their front doors looked and took some photos. I love the beginning of autumn in my little town-it feels old-fashioned and cozy and pretty. (Which has much to do with the weather.)

This house is always always perfect.

I have been inside this house for an open house years and years ago and it has tons of neat nooks and crannies and built-ins.

 You can't tell from this photo but the landscaping around this home is gorgeous.

This house is very simple-I think someone elderly lives here, I never see anyone out and it's not all "fussy", which makes me love it even more.

And how we roll:


Things I Want To Remember

I absolutely should be trying to take a little nap right now, while Janey is napping-she has been under the weather the last two nights and I feel like a fuzzy headed zombie, and a nap would do me good, but alas.

Abbey turned 18.  Look at my wonderful cake!  The foil I covered it with got stuck.  It all tastes the same anyways.

Here is a funny story about Abbey turning 18 I never will forget. She finally has an Iphone!  She had it all of two days, when she went out to eat with her friends for a birthday dinner at Olive Garden. 
And a waitress dropped an entire tray of plates on Abbey and her gifts and her Iphone happened to be sitting on top of her gifts and it was squished.  And I mean squished!  Not just shattered, it looked like a car ran over it.  Bent, dented, squished! After all those years of waiting. We had to laugh, it was just too crazy.  I also laughed because while she was relaying this information to Jeff on the phone I was just hearing one side, and not clearly.  I heard "insurance, not covered, did you get hurt?, how bad is it damaged" and my heart dropped, and then I asked Matt who heard more of the conversation, "What happened to Abbey?" and he said in his mumbly teenage boy way, what I thought was, "She broke her bone at the restaurant because someone dropped a tray on her."  I immediately went to- "She's in the ER, not the right one because insurance isn't covering it, CPR?"  (I also thought I heard something about CPR.  I don't know how but I did. Which made me think for a second she broke her bone and choked!)
So when I found out she broke her PHONE not her BONE, things all seemed a little funnier.
(And Olive Garden is replacing the darn thing, you better believe it!)

And most importantly, it wasn't the end of the world for her, she laughed about it, which is the correct reaction on the "how important is this in life" scale. 

I think maybe inside she was sort of feeling like it wasn't too funny, which I understand, but perspective is the key, and every mom of teenage girls always prays to sees the path to good perspective grow and mature as they progress through the teenage years.  

That's a fancy way of saying that we all panic when we see for example, our teen girls weeping over a hair out of place in 7th grade, that they slowly learn to steady themselves and see the world and it's obstacles with some clarity.  

College drop off day.  (Abbey had to work, Matt had soccer practice.)  If I thought high school goes fast, oh boy, college flies by.  He's a junior already!  He has the same room mate as last year, who happens to be an only child, and we parents think it's funny they get along so well.  

Isaac counting up his cash before he leaves.  (He delivered pizzas all summer and made some good tips and loved it.)


This will be one of my favorite pics.  They fought like banshees over the car this summer, but they are good friends too, I just have to remind them of that sometimes.  They look out for each other and did when they were little also.

This little girl, I don't know.  She is sweet and temperamental and brave and timid and demanding and easy and keeps me on her toes all day long (and into the evening also.)  But most of all she is a joy!

Matt, in a rare moment of free time.  I hardly see that kid!  Soccer and homework and weekend plans that have to be tampered down.  He is loving high school and loving his classes.

Sweet pea with the devilish grin.

We went and bought a fire pit last night and it took too long to put together, and then we were all too scared to look for wood because it was pitch black, so we burned marshmallows and popcorn using twigs and leaves and pine cones, and then I made everyone go to bed. 

And now I'm all caught up.


Things That Make Me Happy

It's September my favorite month of the year.  The air is crisp, the sun is brilliant, the temperature is cooler in the evening and just right during the day.  What's not to love?  (Besides fall allergies, but let's pretend that's not an issue.)

After this busy summer, I feel like I've caught my breath and can rearrange my head somewhat. It's amazing what a little recharge will do.  I feel like I had to take a step back and remember some things-the things that make my life feel full and my soul at peace.   Little and big things.

-The most important is practicing contentment. I crave that feeling and I really do feel like it's the key to happiness-because it goes right along with gratitude.  For the last six months, I have been spending money-picking out light fixtures, cabinet knobs, carpet, BLAH.  Dumb stuff.  It was necessary for me to do those things at the time, but heck, I want off that track, and now that we are finished here, and things are functional and basic, I'm jumping off!  Life is so much more important-so much more full-than STUFF.  And oh, does it feel good.  Function and organization and beautiful living spaces-I love them to the point where real life can shine through, beyond that it's all just feels like it robs me of precious time.  Sounds hokey but it's true to me.

And contentment doesn't just end with material goods.  It also means to me a settling in-finding contentment in small tasks, not large projects, or slow days, not "busy".  Busy never breeds contentment, it makes us miss the important stuff that life is made of.  Being content in just an ordinary day's work-that's the best.

-Staying far away from any/all media.  I haven't watched TV most of spring and all summer.  Or read the paper.  What is the latest news story?  I have no idea!  It's awesome.  I don't know how to explain it but it makes me feel so much better about humankind in general.  The news media operates on negativity, drama, fear and lies.  When around me I can see kindness, generosity, best interest, and love.  Sure evil too, I know it, but if I'm consumed by the negativity, I am not able to operate out of love, and the real story-that's never reported.  Does that make sense?  I'm sure it doesn't, but somehow I feel it's right.  Knowing the latest and greatest doesn't change things, it's action that changes things.  How often do we act on what we hear or do we just 'gossip' about it?  Real change happens with kindness and understanding, not fear and mistrust in human kind.

-Routine.  Getting work down before play, doing the same things every day, even when I don't want to.  Preparing dinner in the morning, staying on top of the laundry, making beds, running a vacuum or sweeping the floor, running as few errands as possible-being orderly-it orders my mind and allows me to be present for the important stuff.



Andrew turned 11!  We bought him a Kindle Paperwhite, after doing an enormous amount of research, and compromise in my head, since I love love love books and hate hate hate screens.  But honestly, this kid is an insatiable reader and I have a hard time keeping up with his trips to the library (and the batteries for his headlamps/flashlights he uses at night!:)  He was thrilled.
It seems like yesterday he was playing with Thomas the Train-one of my favorite photos of him!

And this little girl is two!  We bought her a little scooter (that I just gave her today because in the busyness of the weekend I forget it was hidden up in my closet) and just a few more things, like puzzles, and play food and a coloring book and crayons.  She loved being sung to, and opening her presents.  

Birthdays make me so sentimental (but having three in two weeks also keeps me so busy I don't let that run away from me.)  All I keep thinking about is how lucky I am to be a mom to these kids.  How lucky I am to hold them as infants, and wonder what they will be like as they grow, and then over course of many years, see that personality emerge.  It's wonderfully rewarding, each one of them with such different characteristics, each one learning about life and about themselves and their capabilities and gifts at different paces.  I can't imagine bigger work, a different life, anything close to as fulfilling as what I've done for the last 20 years.  


Back To School

Four down, one to go, and the last one is all mine, all day, and we are going to have some fun.  Fun meaning: quiet walks, books, cleaning, laundry, organization, meal making, and routine, routine, routine.  Because Janey and I both need it!

(Isaac graced us with his presence early in the morning.)

I remember when he Isaac looked like this, the year after we moved in to our house, with Abbey and Matt, who are now a freshman and senior:

 And off Andrew and Patrick go:

She'll cry next year, right now she is just confused-"where did those kids go?"

I have four different schools this year, four different start dates.  Highschoolers first.  Abbey has saved up so many electives she told me, "Mom don't ever ask me if I have my homework finished OK?  I don't have any!"  I am happy for her, she has worked hard the last three years.  She is taking a piano class, teaching herself to play.  Matt is playing soccer and loving it and working hard and loves high school.

That's enough for now-I have to make good use of nap time and put this house back together after all the wear and tear of summer days.

P.S. Thank you for all your birthday gift ideas for Janey!


Birthday Gift Ideas Needed!

Janey's second birthday is coming up and I'm in desperate need of a few great toddler girl gift ideas...I'm used to buying Lego and cars and Nerf guns and guys.  She has enough of those to play with.  Right now Janey has a little kitchen and a stroller she loves, and Abbey's old Bitty Baby and crib.  If you have had a little daughter this age, what is her favorite most played with toy? 


Still Alive and Catching Up

Beautiful summer clouds.

Oh, I wish that was me.  A nap sounds good.

Boys fighting summer boredom.

We had a chance to escape the construction and get away with friends to Bethany Beach.  We shared a big house and had so much fun.  The week flew by.  The kids had a great time in the waves, and I ate way way too much ice cream and caramel corn.

Thanks to Abbey I have some photos, because I didn't touch my camera once...and it must have felt neglected because it promptly broke as soon as I unpacked the darn thing-I'm without a camera for a week or two until I find a replacement.

The big boys came also, but I have no photos of either Isaac or Matt. :(

We are almost there addition-wise.  ALMOST there.  (Two months late, and why oh why can't we (meaning they) just finish already???)  I'm frustrated and can't wait for it to be over so I can wash my hands of all the stress (I will never ever do this again, mark my word, I know I said that last time we renovated this kitchen but this time I mean it I really really do) and just enjoy the extra space.  Here's a few pics of the kitchen:
I chose a marble look-a-like quartz for the island, and that's a great big pantry to the right.  A cookie sheet drawer is going above the double oven, not in place yet (which was my idea to save a contractor from their measuring mistake that could have been very costly.)  The roll of cork is going on side of fridge panel, and I have about 20 back to school papers waiting to stick on it. 

For now, I am trying to balance back to school prep and planning with enjoying these last beautiful days of summer vacation.